Saturday, December 01, 2007
Almost every show today is some kind of serial story. Lost, Heroes, and even the new Bionic Woman(Read my review for Slant.com HERE)are all long form stories with endless subplots and intrigue. These shows are impossible to describe without going into incredible detail..."See, there's this corporation on this Island which may or may not be conducting an experiment on human beings...".
When I was growing up, TV was a lot simpler. Most shows just involved their characters in a new adventure each week without any plot strands left dangling episode to episode. It was in the 80s with shows like Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere and even Cheers that long form plot arcs took hold so that the serial format could be wrapped around the standard episodic structure. It was a way to addict fans of the show to longer story arcs like the Sam and Diane love story while also allowing for new viewers unfamiliar with the backstory to still watch a standalone situation.
The change is even noticeable in the credits sequences from the 70s. Above is one of my favorites, The Six Million Dollar Man. Basically, everything you need to know about the show is told to you in 1 minute 25 seconds. After watching this, anyone could sit down and enjoy Steve Austin's adventures as the Bionic man without having ever watched the show before.
By the way, did you know that the very familiar Six Million Dollar music theme wasn't the first one used for the series? Universal-TV produced two one-off TV movies starring Lee Majors as astronaut Steve Austin using this as the title theme complete with LYRICS sung by none other than Dusty Springfield! "HE'S THE MAN!"